Randall Williams

Artist, Randall Williams, speaks to fifth grade students as he makes a mural at Providencia Elementary School in Burbank on Wednesday, March 9, 2011. The mural shows the history of Burbank, California and the United States government. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff Photographer)

Resting on scaffolding 12 feet off the ground, Randall Williams dipped his brush into black paint and made a smooth stroke that was the beginnings of an unraveling roll of film. And then, despite his precarious perch, he turned to the two dozen fifth-grade students sitting below and began explaining the opportunities found in art.

“If you want to be an artist, it doesn’t mean you have to draw,” Williams said. “You can be an artist and design cars for Ford, you can design architecture, there are a lot of different things you can do if you become an artist.”

For Williams, artistic opportunity has come in the form of murals. His latest project is a teaching mural that currently is underway at Providencia Elementary School in Burbank. Sponsored by the Lockheed Federal Credit Union, which is headquartered in Burbank, the work features an evolution of local history. Three feet tall and 15 feet long, it starts with the region’s Native American and agricultural roots and then moves into 20th Century with the arrival of the entertainment studios and Lockheed Aircraft Corp.

The project design began to take place late last year with parents and teachers giving their input, Lockheed Federal Credit Union community relations specialist Alethia Calagias said.

“In the last few years we have wanted to work more with the community and show that we are a community partner, and what better way to show them by working with somebody who is three blocks from us,” Calagias said.

Williams’ strong reputation in the arts-and-education community in Burbank made him the perfect choice, Calagias said. He teaches art at several Burbank Unified schools and the Burbank Adult School. His murals adorn walls at the Burbank courthouse and the Gordon Howard Museum, and another one is underway at the Burbank YMCA.

Williams began painting Tuesday, and expects to complete the mural sometime next week. Laced into his work are brief lessons for Providencia students who filed through, bringing with them many questions.

The elementary school is benefitting from an increasingly strong relationship with the local credit union, Principal Tom Kissinger said.

“They are our neighbor, and it is a very important part of our school community to involved local businesses in what we are doing here,” he said.